Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
How low can you go? Snow and ice and cancelled school.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- September

Polenta with tomatoes and zuchinni

Pasta with green beans, mushrooms, and sliced tomato

Pasta with the tail end of the tomatoes and olives
Green beans, new potatoes baked  with tomatoes

Bold type is locally grown...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sliding Towards Fall...

  1. The dining room is the frying room—figs, nuts, laundry, tomato seeds…
  2. Wild western winds.
  3. All 90 pounds of potatoes are in.
  4. The zucchini vines have succumbed to powdery mildew.
  5. Trail grass is golden.
  6. The fields at Finely are burned for weed control.
  7. The grass in the yard is turning green.
  8. The chicken coop is on the garden beds.
  9. The cats are looking for laps.
  10. We’ve had our first morning fire on Sunday.
  11. OSU students are back and bellowing.
  12. The asters are blooming.
  13. The wool blanket is on the bed.
  14. Cider!
  15. Dinner from the oven sounds good.
  16. The Harvest moon has risen over Chip Ross park.




Tomato and Potato casserole


This is one of those very simple recipes where the sum total is outstanding and you wonder—why is this soooo good?

New potatoes, sliced in rounds and boiled until just done.
A handful or two of ripe cherry tomatoes.
Basil leaves, chopped coarsely.
Mozzarella cheese, sliced.
Salt and pepper.

Layer in a casserole dish—potatoes, tomatoes, basil, cheese, salt and pepper. Repeat. Bake in 350 oven until bubbly. Eat with steamed green beans on the side. Repeat.



Sunday, September 8, 2013

Voluntary Complexity

     
      Anyone who believes that we live lives of Voluntary Simplicity because we have a couple of hens in the backyard, some locally grown tomatoes on the shelf and one car in the driveway has not seen my schedule book lately. I am beginning to feel like an Honors Junior angling towards Stanford. They have colored coded planners, fifteen things happening in a day, and no time for the common cold, never mind a weekend off. Me, too. We are all  practicing Voluntary Complexity, not Voluntary Simplicity.

            I once lived a very simple life. My last year in college, I had a two room apartment with the bathroom down the hall. I shared the second floor of an old house with three dirty old men, literally. The front room held my bed, a bookshelf, rocking chair, chest of drawers, and record collection. There was a small open space where I could sit on the floor and spread out my notecards before beginning to write a paper. The kitchen held my other bookshelf, which functioned as the prep counter, a small table, tiny fridge, and my big desk with manual typewriter. I went to the Laundromat and grocery store every Saturday morning, baked my own bread, learned how to make soup, and decided meat was, really, too expensive for what you got. I spent my evenings reading eighteenth century fiction and New England history, my days working in the archives, attending classes, and hanging out with friends at lunch. I did not have a car, a cat, or a boyfriend. I agreed with May Sarton, who said that one could live well alone at twenty and again at fifty, and with Adrienne Rich, who talked about the need to choose how to live, alone or with a partner.  It was a good time in my life.

            Life now is far more complicated. As all teachers know—and the people who make decisions at least pretend to deny—any time you add a life to your own, it adds complication. Seeing 163 students every other day (and all of them on Friday) requires more tracking and more effort than seeing 81 of them every day for one semester, followed by 82 every day for the next. Just look at the pile of summer reading projects on my counter, waiting for Monday morning.  Over the fifteen years we have lived in this little house, I have added many lives to my own, starting with a “housebound” partner and two cats and moving outward from there. Every relationship adds complexity. Every volunteer action, every group, every meeting I attend, every student I stay in touch with years later, adds complexity. Sometimes, like at the beginning of the school year when everything converges at once, it is not a good thing. Sometimes I remember that little apartment fondly.

            But Voluntary Complexity has a positive side, beyond stress. Every connection we make strengthens our lives as well. We are tangled in a web and it provides a springboard and a safety net. Before school began, my friend Julia—the high school art teacher-- and I organized an Art Retreat for our colleagues and summer hiking partners. It was simple. Bring art supplies and picnic food, gather at my house for carpooling, and head to Alsea Falls. We found a spot with two tables, spread the excellent food on one, art supplies on the other, listened to Julia explain a little bit about watercolors, and dispersed.   Some people went for walks in the woods. Some settled in with a plate of food and notebook at the table. Some headed for the river to draw. I sat by the water, wrestling, as always, with perspective, then stopped. Amy sat in front of me, her feet in the stream, staring into space. I could hear seven year old Layne telling someone a story behind me, her voice mingling with the river. Another friend settled in nearby. Other families came and went. The breeze rustled in the dry August leaves. Back at the picnic table, I knew, were other members of my web, talking, patting the dog, and strengthening ties for the coming school year. As the day began to fade, we came together once more, ate, and packed up to leave. The evening was pale pink as we pulled out of the park. Doug firs sketched against the sky. The road a dark tunnel through the trees until we broke into the valley and headed north, towards home. Mary’s Peak, our home mountain, on the left, the Willamette River beyond the fields on the right. 


Drying Fruit for Winter Eating


One of the actions that lends complexity to my life in September is the desire to be Fruit Independent all winter. Over the years, we’ve learned that local, often scavenged, totally ripe fruit is infinitely better than fruit picked green and shipped across the world. I have a small food drier that I bought for thirty dollars at Bi-Mart and it works just fine. No need for fancy equipment.

drying plums
Keys to successful drying:
  • Thin slices—apples, pears, peaches
  • Spread it out a bit to expose more surface—plums, cherries, figs.
  • Dry it whole—blueberries and raisins.
  • Have patience—all of it. It takes longer than I once thought.
  • Go for really dry. If the fruit is dry, you can put it in a quart jar, seal it with last year’s canning lid, and store it on the shelf with the canned tomatoes and pickles.  If you want fleshy fruit, make a compote.



            

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers-- August


Steamed Veg, herbed cottage cheese

Annie's Mac and Cheese, green beans-- car camping food!



Baked potato (just dug), caponata
Bread and cheese with peacevine tomatoes, MacIntosh apples


Bold indicates locally raised.

Caponata-- serve with a creamy pasta for heavenly comfort food.

1 large eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
a handful of olives
several tablespoons of capers
2 half pint jars of roasted tomatoes
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

Chop all of the veg and saute in olive oil. Add olives, capers and tomatoes. Cook until lovely and stewy.

Serve with pasta or  flatbread and perhaps a salad. Peach pie is nice, too.